Can ‘Hot or Not’ Help Us Design Better Cities?

Liz Stinson, writing for Wired:

Social scientists have long suspected that a neighborhood’s aesthetic value might be a good gauge of its safety and vitality, but the proof was slippery. After all, it’s not easy to quantify an emotional response to a graffiti tag. But two years ago, that’s exactly what a group of researchers from MIT’s media lab did.

The team built Place Pulse, an online tool that enabled them to gather empirical data on how a city’s architecture, design and general aesthetic affect its social and economic outcomes. Place Pulse is basically a website that encourages visitors to rank two side-by-side images of cities on the basis of their appearance. Using randomly chosen Google Street View images from Boston, New York City, and Linz and Salzburg in Austria, the site asked questions like: Which place looks safer or which place looks more upper-class?

I can see this being useful, but I can also see it reinforcing long-held notions that may need to be revised.

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